Inflation flies in Argentina. The year-on-year price increase has broken the three-digit barrier for the first time since 1990, according to official data. In February, the CPI advanced 6.6% compared to January and 102.5% when compared to February 2022. The data that generates the most alarm is the rise in food, which increased 9.8%. The news is a blow to the Peronist government of Alberto Fernández and to his Economy Minister, Sergio Massa, only seven months before the presidential elections.
The large increase in food prices was led by meat and dairy products, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (Indec). Government agreements to curb the value of these products have failed and there is concern about the impact of the increases for the population with fewer resources. In Argentina, in the middle of 2022, almost one in ten people lived in destitution, that is, he did not have enough income to buy the basic food basket. The inflationary escalation suggests that this figure will worsen even more this year, as that of poverty, which was 36.5%.
The podium is completed by the Communication sectors, with a rise of 7.8%, and restaurants and hotels, which raised their prices by 7.5%.
Social movements have taken to the streets of Buenos Aires in protest against the economic situation. “The debt is with us”, can be read on some banners of the demonstrators camped in front of the Ministry of Social Development to demand more aid and protest against cuts.
Many participants in this protest live on public employment plans, which they supplement with other state subsidies and small odd jobs. “Working is not enough, everything is very expensive,” laments Jennifer Paso, who protests in the street with two baby children on a scorching morning, the fifteenth consecutive day of a heat wave in the Argentine capital. Next to her, two other mothers nod, denouncing that their pockets are emptying faster and faster.
In Latin America, only Venezuela surpasses Argentina in inflation. The local population is used to prices going up every month, but the youngsters had never seen some products become more expensive from one week to the next, as is the case today, or jump as big as they are now. At less crowded times, it is possible to find labeller-wielding merchants changing prices at full speed; Also, receive phone calls to report the increase in value of a good ordered a few days before.
Peronism needs to tame inflation to have any chance in this year’s elections. Upon taking office as Economy Minister last August, Massa implemented measures that achieved a timid downward trend in the second half of 2022, but in January prices got out of control again. March will not bring relief either: it is usually one of the most complicated months in inflation rates due to the increases associated with the start of the school year and 2023 is not expected to be an exception.
Inflation has been the executioner of Argentine governments that came to power with the promise of stopping it. Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, candidate for Together for Change, is not afraid of stumbling over the same stone as others before him. “I guarantee it, I’m going to lower inflation,” said the current mayor of Buenos Aires hours before the devastating official index was released.
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